11/20/16- Thanksgiving: Grab Your Bootstraps, Count Your Blessings

Sermon 11/20/16 – Grab Your Bootstraps, Count Your Blessings
I think it’s appropriate to begin this sermon with a collective sigh. *sigh.* OK, now we’ve got that over with….Election day has come and gone, and we’ve had almost 2 weeks to process the outcome, which, for many of us, is terrifying. If that’s not how you feel, great, please help us all to try and understand what you understand. I’ll tell you up front that it’s fine to still be really angry, disappointed, confused, and anxious and I know that’s not going to subside any time soon. And god knows there’s plenty to be anxious about. But we’re going to talk about that next week, because this is too important not to. This week, however, we’re going to rally our spirits, count our blessings, and find comfort in this beloved community, because this is the time of giving thanks for the good things that are in our lives.
Last Wednesday, the night after the election, I opened this sanctuary from 6 to 8 pm for anyone who wanted or needed to find others to commiserate with. Ten people showed up from this congregation, though a few were there for a Ministerial Committee meeting that I hijacked in order to make it happen. Because I knew that I didn’t want to be alone, that I wanted to have people to talk to, not on facebook, but face to face, where we could see and feel each other’s pain and hear each other’s fears and frustrations, and give each other the comfort that we weren’t alone in the chaos of our emotions. The ministry committee actually did have our meeting, with everyone else there to add their voices to what we could do as a congregation to make a difference in our community. And setting aside our frustrations for a few minutes in order to think about what we could actually DO, certainly made me feel better, and I hope it made everyone else who was there feel a little better.
I know I wouldn’t have felt so good if I had stayed alone in my own misery, and that’s too often what so many of us do. I’ll tell you honestly, I had to force myself to come here and open the doors, because this hit me pretty hard, but minister is a verb, and that means we do something, anything, we can to help each other. That’s why all of us are here. And for the way we minister to each other, I give thanks. Thank you all for taking care of me as much as I try to care for you. I’m truly grateful for the love and support we share here.
OK…so that’s blessing #1…We have each other (whiteboard?)
(We are Unitarians, after all…this is how we process…)
What else do we have? This election has shown us that the issues our country is dealing with can no longer be put off…there’s an awful lot to think about right now: immigration, LGBTQ issues, women’s issues, racial issues, religious issues…and please don’t forget climate change. Unitarians love this kind of challenge…when the gauntlet of oppression is thrown down, we rise to the occasion, and we’ve been doing that for centuries. We are here to empower the disenfranchised, to insist that justice for all is realized in our communities, and to promote peace and civility in our world. This is what we do…our principles and conscience guide us and we fight for what we know is right. So, if my beautiful assistant will assist me… Let’s call Blessing #2- We fight for what’s right.
And how about this for a blessing…it’s very hard to turn the clock back on big changes in our society. The progress our nation has made toward justice for all may be very hard to undo. There are about half a million same sex couple who are married in the U.S. right now. Do you think those legal unions can be erased by anyone? I don’t think so. Nothing harder than changing paperwork that’s already been processed, right? Do you really think that Roe v. Wade can be overturned at this point? I sincerely doubt it, but at this point I guess anything can actually happen, which is where so much of our anxiety comes from, of course. But change is inevitable, and the longer that time has to do its work, the harder it is to go back to what has already changed and reverse what is already in motion. I’d love to make myself a great figure skater again. It isn’t going to happen. It’s too late. I can still go skating, but I have to accept that my Olympic dreams are probably not going to pan out at this point. We can’t turn back the clock. No matter what happens, there’s no avoiding that the angry white guy is going to be the minority in this country by 2045. That’s not an opinion, it’s biology and math. And the truth of that math makes a lot of people in this country scared. I understand that this election is partially the blowback of that fact…change isn’t just coming, it’s here. So, let’s call Blessing #3- It’s hard to change the changes, and everything changes again.
Another asset we have, collectively, is our creativity and resilience. When we were sitting around the table last Wednesday I admitted to saying that at one point I had thrown up my hands and said, “I’m done with politics!” But as you know I’m a political junky and I know that that was a statement filled with frustration and bluster. I knew when I said it that I didn’t mean it. Because I believe that the only way change keeps happening for the better is because we keep fighting for our principles. I will not concede to tyranny and hate, to bigotry or fear, I will not avoid the fight for freedom and peace and justice, I will, and I hope you all will, undertake to do the hardest work joyfully and with a renewed purpose, because it’s too important not to.
Blessing #4: We are resilient!
And how about this…our kids…old and young…we know what kind of people they are and what we’ve taught them about respect and tolerance, about equality and justice, about bullying and about compassion. You know the values that you’ve instilled into your children and you know what kind of people they are, or what kind of people and parents they’re likely going to be, and that alone should give us hope. Many of our kids were brought up or are being brought up in a world that’s smaller than it’s ever been, because technology lets us reach out to virtually everyone on the planet…we can see each other, hear each other, help each other, understand each other better than ever. And if we use the technology to spread love and not hate, it makes a difference. I believe the younger generations, mine included, are going to insist on a better world. I believe we have the power to do just about anything we set our minds to…if we get off our collective duffs and do it. We’ll talk more about that next week. Let’s call Blessing #5- Our kids will be smarter than us.
So, what else are we thankful for? What are you thankful for? Raise your hand if you have something to be thankful for….
When we think about it we have lots to be thankful for. Because love still trumps hate, always. Isn’t that Jesus’s message right there in a nutshell? Wasn’t that the opus of his struggle; that he so loved the world that he would sacrifice himself to spread his message of peace and love? “Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, that you do unto me.” Can I get an amen? Let’s hold tight to that message of compassion and tolerance in this time of division, and hope that it resonates throughout our world. Let’s be here for each other, and let’s do the work that our conscience demands of us, and keep fighting for truth and justice for all.
So, today, before we feast together and share in fellowship, let’s say a prayer of Thanksgiving now, since it’s hard to do it when we’re all in the parish hall.
Great Mystery, Source of All, We give thanks today for the bounty we are about to receive, for all the rough hands who planted, tended, and harvested the crops we eat, and the beasts who gave their lives to sustain us. We are glad to be together, to be with one another in this safe and supportive place; may we be ever grateful for this beloved community. We pray for all of those who go hungry today and those who are alone, here in our own communities and everywhere; may they find sustenance and comfort.
We pray for those who are refugees, be it from another country or from their own sense of connectedness to the world in general, may they find safety and sanctuary. We pray for those who have hate in their hearts, may they receive enough love in their lives to create compassion and empathy. We pray for strength and level-headedness in a time of great anxiety; may we work for peace through peaceful means, while never giving up the fight for truth and justice. And may we all take the time to recognize the many blessings we have, and be grateful. Amen, and SMIB.